Monday, February 6, 2012

Lead, Follow, or Quote Correctly

Republican Candidate Mitt Romney tried to invoke the memory of a Revolutionary patriot when he declared in Florida: “In another era of American crisis, Thomas Paine is reported to have said, 'Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Mr. President, you were elected to lead. You chose to follow, and now, it's time for you to get out of the way.”

Fighting words in these times that try men’s souls!—but it would help if the quote were based in reality.  Tom Paine, that old trouble-making Deist, never said any such thing. Romney at least said Paine “is reported to have said” it—which is technically correct. If you Google the quote, you’ll find it credited to Paine at many sites, such as BrainyQuote, ThinkExist, and QuoteDB. Tch, tch.

An on-line search of all of Paine’s published works does not reveal these words, or anything approximating them. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations has no such citation. Of course, Paine might have uttered the words in passing to his barber or his bootblack, but such an event is not recorded.

Moreover, the terseness and rude bluntness of the phrase does not have the cadences typical of most eighteenth-century prose, including Paine’s.  If he had wished to utter such a thought, Paine would probably have written something like: “I implore you to provide sorely needed generalship against our tyrannous enemies, or to follow steadfastly those brave patriots already in the fore, or, failing either of those alternatives, to remove yourself as an obstacle in the path of progress.” 

No one can really pin down the origin of this popular saying. “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way” is the title of a 1981 biography of media mogul Ted Turner, who “is reported” to have the saying mounted on his desk. Maybe Turner thought of it. 

General George S. Patton also “is reported” to have said, "We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way."  The no-nonsense Patton is also noted for such quotes as “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country; he won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

A deficient leader and an unreliable follower, the Bard of Buffalo Bayou is content to stay out of the way, until he has something to say, which happens more often than is necessary.
            Twelve Republicans, God’s gift from heaven,
            Trump tripped up, then there were eleven.

            Eleven Republicans, with a Presidential yen,
            Johnson non-started, then there were ten.

            Ten Republicans in the candidate line,
            Roemer went nowhere, then there were nine.
            Nine Republicans eager to debate,
            Pawlenty had plenty, then there were eight.           

            Eight Republicans tried to rise like leaven,
            Cain wasn’t able, then there were seven.

            Seven Republicans remained in the mix,
            Bachmann fell back, then there were six.

            Six Republicans, hoping to stay alive,
            Huntsman missed his shot, then there were five.

            Five Republicans, playing hard to score,
             “Oops!” Perry fumbled, and now there are four.

            Four Republicans, which will it be?
            Is Santorum next, to leave only three?

            Three Republicans, still quite a few,
            Paul may move on, leaving only two.

            Two Republicans, which one will run?
            Gingrich or Romney, there can be only one.

            One Republican, when all is said and done.
            But Obama’s in the way—so then there’ll be none.


  1. A delightful poem, with sentiments I heartily second! And you touch upon a huge pet peeve of mine, which is people online attributing quotes to people who never wrote or uttered them. Ben Franklin didn't write "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy". Dickens didn't write "There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate" (which sounds more like something Pooh would say about honey). John Lennon didn't say that ridiculous cheery quote about his mother. There needs to be an authoritative source on the Internet where such things can be checked out; seems to be a stab in that direction.

    1. And I assure you, although you can find it attributed to him at multiple web sites, Shakespeare never even thought of saying: "A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” As the Bard of Buffalo Bayou put it:

      Who knew that Will, our best of bards,
      In his spare time, wrote Hallmark cards?

    2. Galen are you still so apt to 2nd the poem's fancy, with what's his name legacy of folks shooting innocent cops like cowards from afar with sniper rifles. These poor cops may have a few bad apples. You find them in every barrel - cops are not exempt. I contend what's his name is one of our oval office apples rotten to the core & what's her name is the same Saul Alinsky fodder to rid this world of what God gave it in the form of a self mending democratic republic. Your KKK had bullets, torches, and ropes to massage the culture. Whatever is left to repair, restore, and recover to the roots of the American fathers will not. The pen is mightier than the sword one said. Prayer Trumps all.

    3. HA HA HA!! From December 2016. Now we all know better.

  2. "Cain wasn't able" -- BWAHAHA!

  3. I seem to remember Lee Iacocca saying that ... mid-70's perhaps?

  4. Yes, Lee Iaccoco did say it but in 1992

    HIGHLAND PARK, Mich., Feb. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Chrysler today announced a new corporate advertising campaign with Lee A. Iacocca delivering a clear message: "In the car business, you lead, follow or get out of the way ... and Chrysler intends to be a leader."
    A 60-second television commercial, airing for the first time on the CBS network broadcast of the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France, will be the first in a series of new corporate advertising which will run the next 18 months. The campaign lays the groundwork for the introduction of Chrysler's new products -- the Dodge Viper, Jeep(R) Grand Cherokee and new cab forward "LH" sedans, the Dodge Intrepid, Eagle Vision and Chrysler Concorde.
    "The corporation has literally reinvented itself. The platform teams are in place, our commitment is strong and the proof is in our new products," said John B. Damoose, vice president of marketing. "Actually, this is more than an advertising campaign. With the changes we've made, and the new products that are coming, Chrysler is rapidly becoming America's newest car company. We want the public to know that there is a reason to believe in Chrysler."
    In a television spot, Iacocca acknowledges that foreign competitors have been giving American car makers a real beating, but no more. Chrysler critically examined all aspects of the company, restructured into platform teams, built the billion-dollar Chrysler Technology Center and is bringing new products to market.
    The print ad features the 1992 Dodge Viper as the first of 19 totally new cars, trucks and minivans that will come from Chrysler in the next four years. The new Chrysler is building cars that will compete with anything the world has to offer.
    The ad states: "This is a heady promise. You are cordially invited to stay around and watch us deliver on it. In the years ahead, we don't plan to follow. And we sure won't have to get out of the way. That means there's only one alternative left."
    Chrysler is the official automotive sponsor of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team for the Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, and the Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. Chrysler is the first sponsor to capture all the automotive categories -- car, truck, parts and service.
    -0- 2/5/92
    /CONTACT: Rita McKay of Chrysler, 313-252-8794/
    (C) CO: Chrysler Corporation; CBS ST: Michigan IN: AUT ADV SU:

    1. 1987, my USAF Basic Military Training Squadron had the Motto "Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way." So the saying pre-dates the 1992 Iacocca quote or company motto. Being military, they may have relied on a paraphrase of the Patton statement.